Violin virtuoso Niccolo / WED 7-24-19 / Actress comic Kemper / Tank topped ponytailed Futurama character / Circular arrow button in address bar

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Constructor: Jake Halperin

Relative difficulty: Challengingish (this was a 5am wake-up solve, though, and I despised this thing from square one, so that *might* have affected my time...) (5:19)

THEME: colloquial infinitive phrases, clued as if they were "Tasks" :(

Theme answers:
  • TO NAME A COUPLE (20A: Task for new parents of twins?)
  • TO PUT IT MILDLY (38A: Task for a Thai chef cooking for typical Americans?)
  • TO SAY THE LEAST (55A: Task for a Benedictine monk?)
Word of the Day: ERIKA Christensen (59A: Christensen of "Parenthood") —
Erika Jane Christensen (born August 19, 1982) is an American actress and singer whose filmography includes roles in Traffic (2000), Swimfan (2002), The Banger Sisters (2002), The Perfect Score (2004), Flightplan (2005), How to Rob a Bank (2007), The Tortured (2010), and The Case for Christ (2017). For her performance in Traffic, she won the MTV Movie Award for Breakthrough Female Performance and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture along with her co-stars.
In 2006, she starred on the short-lived drama series Six Degrees on ABC. From 2010 until its ending in 2015, Christensen starred as Julia Braverman-Graham on the NBC family drama series Parenthood. In 2014, she won a Gracie Award for her performance in the role. Christensen portrayed Betty Beaumontaine on ABC's short-lived crime drama series Wicked City. (wikipedia)
• • •

NATASHA's face is my face
This puzzle is a cry for help. Or a middle finger to the solving audience. You decide. All I know is that a theme this thin should not have fill This Bad. Egregious. Painful. Answers starting in the NW quadrant *alone* were bad enough that I would've quit if I didn't have to write this thing up. It is inexcusable to have so much room, so much space, so much leeway (given your very weak, barely-there theme), and still lard the puzzle with garbage like ABITOF INE ONENIL ANACE ALGAL ATPAR ASLOPE (!??!?!?!?!). That right there is enough junk to sink an entire puzzle, but as you'll note, I haven't even made it out of the NW yet. Does it get better? Well, it doesn't get worse, but honestly, how could it? And is the theme worth it? Well, no theme is worth this, and this theme in particular deserves very little in the way of special dispensations. TO NAME A COUPLE is horrible. Horrible. You don't have much to go on with this theme, so All You Themers Have To Land. As every English speaker knows, the phrase is "to name a few." TO NAME A COUPLE is some jury-rigged, kinda/sorta, lawyer-needing baloney. I have no problem struggling with difficult puzzles that are supposed to be difficult because it's late in the week, the clues are clever or tricky, etc. I have tons of problems with difficulty that arises because of constructorial / editorial incompetence. Any self-respecting editor, any editor editor who is not in a sinecure and not too complacent to do his job, should have (if this theme "tickled" him) Sent This Back For A Complete Refill. How do you not make your constructor do better? I've seen rejected puzzles that were So much better than this that just didn't pass the "tickle" test. It's maddening. LOATHE doesn't even begin ...

[deep inside I hope *you* feel it too...]

The whole experience was made worse by the fact that even clues on normal, decent fill meant nothing to me much of the time. MONDO? Shrug (19A: Mario's world). LEVELA? What the hell (41A: Like the most protective hazmat suits). Who knows hazmat suit rating levels?!?!? Further, who knows what key "Isn't She Lovely" is in!? (OK, you hardcore music types might, but yeeeeeesh—that is bad fill made infinitely worse) (and how, How, do you make something Worse by *adding* Stevie Wonder to it? That might be a first in human history) (17A: INE). Your clue for LAW (a fine word) is 41D: Part of LSAT??!? Do you hate clever clues? joy? the English language? Why steer us back *into* an abbr. when you don't have to??? And why oh why steer is *into* some *very old* and *German* song (LOL "hit") for the very simple, you-could-do-anything-with-it answer ARE!?! (43A: What "bist" means in the 1930s hit "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen"). This is Bad Decision Theater at its baddest. And we wrap it up with [checks notes] HOR over ENS ... [chef's kiss]. Sigh. Goodbye.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. In case you were wondering, 68A: Non-majority? is ENS because the ENS (the actual letters: the "n"s) make up the "majority" of the prefix "non" ... I'm sorry, but it's true.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Loren Muse Smith 6:39 AM  

Rex – this is more than just a thin set of colloquial infinitive phrases. To learn the ropes…To drop the ball… To fall on your sword… none of these would work here.

This is an extremely tight group of themers highlighting Jake’s most excellent sprachgefühl: All three are infinitives normally tagged onto the end of a statement, qualifying that statement. And then they’re clued to be a little more literal. It’s almost impossible to come up with others.

Task for actor to portray Sinatra in a movie? To be frank
Task for evil boss to sabotage the work of picture framers? To make matters worse
Task for bystanders to keep away while emt uses a defibrillator? To be clear

Jake’s group is far superior because my examples could easily begin a statement, too.

MONDO went in no prob. So did LEVEL A, but I am trained in hazmat, thankyouverymuch. Kinda. I learned that when there’s a hazmat event, you drive the pumper close enough to read the placard through binoculars so you can call the LEVEL A suit badasses.

I’d feel conspicuous saying /orang-a-tan/ and not /orang-a-tang/. I also eat /sher-bert/, not /sher-bet/. There’s something about rhyming that last syllable that Just Feels Right.

UPRAISE gave me pause. Unmerciless, unthaw, irregardless, unravel. Hah. I bet that redundant prefix is a thumb in the eye to lots of people. Anything that bothers grammar snobs uplifts me.

Speaking of the much-maligned irregardless, here’s a snippet by Kory Stamper, a lexicographer at Merriam Webster. This part really speaks to me: How can you possibly have a dialogue about usage, substandard terms, the stigmatization of dialect, and whether context matters with people who have, for all intents and purposes, stuck their fingers in their ears and are yelling “UNACCEPTABLE” at you over and over again? Sigh. I know this Truth but continue to complain about the stigma of the dialect of the unwashed. I should probably just stab my kneecap with a plastic fork and be done with it.

“Reward for working late” – I’m sorry, could you repeat that?

Loved the clue for UTERI. Devastation station–McDonald’s before 11am when they’re not serving Big Macs yet. Crustacean station – “Seahorse” lobster place (West Point, Phippsburg) where we buy our sheddahs.

Jake – I really, really enjoyed contemplating these little phrases tagged on to the end of an utterance.

Lewis 6:52 AM  

I thought the same as Loren, that this is a mighty tight theme. My reasons are a little different -- the answers start with "to", followed by a "communication" verb, and then the phrases have to be four words in length. All I could come up with was "To state the obvious", but that is too long for a daily grid (and what the heck clue can you make for that?). Maybe commenters here can chime in with some more. In any case, props to Jake for coming up with the idea, and executing it!

Because of its tightness and because it has never done before, and because it struck me as quite interesting, the theme didn't feel thin to me, as it did to Rex. Different strokes.

Jon Alexander 6:57 AM  

I thought the theme was tighter than Rex is giving credit for, but, yes, the fill was awful. Unfortunately, that detracted mightily from any enjoyment the theme provided (and being only 3 clues, it was already a light presence in the grid)

Anonymous 7:01 AM  

There's no excuse for this kind of fill. Not even one bright spot...everything was awful. No idea how this one got through to publication.

Kendall 7:02 AM  

@loren and @lewis even if the theme fits a tighter defined structure than Rex pointed out how do you reconcile that 1/3 of the answers is absolutely contrived? It sort of spoils the rest since it now opens the theme pool up to an infinite number of phrases if we don’t require they be phrases people actually use.

Joaquin 7:04 AM  

Rather enjoyed this puzzle; had to read Rex to find out I shouldn't have. I do have a couple of nits: 68A Non-majority? The clue should not be hyphenated. And 43A (bist) is just plain weird.

Suzie Q 7:14 AM  

If I could add to Rex's analysis of why this is the worst puzzle in the world I would. However, he nailed it.
When I see trash like this being published it makes me wonder how the bloggers here who submit puzzles must feel. I would be livid.
Is Jake Halperin Will's nephew or something?

American Liberal Elite 7:14 AM  

I assumed Levala® was some high-tech protective fabric.

Anonymous 7:15 AM  

Rex, go back to bed for an hour or two, then start the day over. Better yet, line up some guest bloggers and take another vacation. Someone needs an attitude adjustment.

kitshef 7:17 AM  

Big Katey Sagal fan, so major bonus points for having Turanga LEELA in the grid. Also liked seeing ELLIE Kemper, whose book My Squirrel Days I’m about 30% of the way through. I find her brand of goofy, nerdy earnestness very appealing.

Alas, those gems were lost in the constant drumbeat of names in the puzzle: BEN, DIANE, OTIS, FELLINI, DRE, ERIKA, LEELA, TERI (another fave), ADAM, NATASHA, TAYLOR, PAGANINI, ELLIE.

And of course, the absence of a theme on a Wednesday was a surprise.

QuasiMojo 7:24 AM  

I was cringing every moment of this, ADO is not an auspicious beginning, then gave up when I hit the natick at 32 down. I am required to know these two actors? Enough already.

Norm 7:34 AM  

Rex was too kind to this one.

Old Nampa guy 7:43 AM  

Pretty annoying.
Not a fan of this one.

clk 7:45 AM  

Ok, LMS and Lewis have made me admire the theme, but that still doesn’t excuse TONAMEACOUPLE, which just isn’t a phrase that is commonly used. I’m even the target demo for that clue—a mother of twins who had to scramble at the last minute to name them—and I found no charm in that answer because that’s just not a phrase. The other two themes were good, but that was bad to include and worse to lead off your theme with.

I had a Natick at the Dad from Blackish/Kemper cross too. Ugh.

Trump2020 7:46 AM  

Can’t understand the level of hostility for a crossword puzzle. I thought it was a fun Wednesday effort, a bit of a challenge but not too much. A few answers were pretty meh, but overall I enjoyed it.

Rob Rushing 7:49 AM  

Generally agree with Rex here. I finished, but it wasn’t fun.

MagsWord 7:51 AM  

First time commenter here! Didn't love the puzzle either tho really enjoyed the grammar lesson of its defenders up above! Very interesting! But for me what caused a wave of horror to wash over me when I was all done & looking it over was the clue for "Thai chefs": when I think of ethnicities that endure gentle ribbing over the lack of heat in our cooking I think northern European (so, my family of origin, guilty as charged)..but WTF at this particular moment in this particular country you allow "typical Americans" to = northern Europeans?? Some African cuisine, Latin cuisine, other Asian cuisines, Indian cuisine, etc all bring plenty of heat, I'm still singing along to Beyonce always having hot sauce in her bag: none of these can be "typical American"?? YEESH.

Z 7:54 AM  

Tell us how you really feel.

@Kendall and Rex - TO NAME A few involves three or four, TO NAME A COUPLE involves two. Last I checked I am a real person.

@Suzie Q - And yet @Lewis and @Muse always find the good in a puzzle. I’m with you, it would make me livid.

What do you call it when someone says something is “nearly impossible” and then immediately comes up with three examples?

I liked the theme but find it hard to disagree with Rex about the fill, even if I might not have put it so passionately.

@LMS -“Reward for working late” - You mean “heartfelt appreciation” isn’t enough? You actually want to be paid for your time and effort? How dare you.*

*Because someone will believe that last “how dare you” - that’s sarcasm. Workers unionizing to protect themselves against exploitation is one of the best things to ever happen in our society.

pabloinnh 8:00 AM  

Exactly what @kitshef said about the names. One more and I was ready to run out the back door screaming. Usually I find OFL to be overly harsh, but sadly, I found much to agree with in today's screed. So it goes.

All of us who have a soft spot for Natick will want to know that there was a terrible downtown fire there yesterday that destroyed eight businesses. Folks are in shock, of course, but as often happens, thankful for the courage and thoughtfulness of first responders and neighbors.
Stay strong, Natick.

Anonymous 8:02 AM  

From in the constructor's own words "This puzzle was accepted just over a year ago. It was the first time the NYT accepted a puzzle of mine as is, without asking for a revision." Therein lies the problem. How this puzzle was reviewed and accepted without any revisions is mind-boggling. This fill is just awful. This puzzle created a horrible solving experience.

puzzlehoarder 8:12 AM  

I liked this puzzle for the very reasons people have criticised. I don't care for themes and this one is minimal. The fill is laced with names, some of which are obscure, giving me a Thursday time on a Wednesday puzzle.

MASTHEAD was the last to fall partly thanks to the unknown LEELA and the slightly unusual SEEALSO. Who cares if 20A sounds modified. The theme isn't corny or painfully punny. That's another thing I appreciated.

Would "Castration stations" be NEUTERI? Talk amongst yourselves.

Dr. Haber 8:17 AM  

Can someone splain ine?

mmorgan 8:18 AM  

I found this pretty tough, and the themers felt awkward to me. I did kinda like TO PUT IT MILDLY but I get @MagsWord’s point. I hardly ever notice bad fill (I tend to expect a fair amount of it) but I do notice when there’s very little to none of it. This was not one of those days when I noticed there was very little, and if I had discovered evidence of very little of it I would have said so. (I’m thinking about quai-double negatives in preparation for Mueller’s testimony.) But I didn’t hate it.

Rex, I hope you feel better now and that you have a very calm and pleasant day.

Anonymous 8:24 AM  

For the record (to coin a pun), Bei Mir Bist du Schoen is an American song, and it was indeed a worldwide smash — not to mention a highlight on Benny Goodman’s all-time classic Carnegie Hall concert album.

mambridge 8:31 AM  

OVERTIME is what you work. The reward for that is OVERTIME PAY.

RooMonster 8:32 AM  

Hey All !
Drudging something up from the recesses of the ole brain? - TO BRING TO MIND. Yes? No?

Somewhere twixt Rex and @LMS on this one. Actually seems it should've been a TuesPuz. Three themers, thin, as y'all probably know, I'm a fan of lots of themers. But this one is OK.

Just a few writeovers, bELLINI-FELLINI (isn't there a bELLINI out there?), ALGAe-ALGAc(har)-ALGAL, MOrDO-MONDO, ___Est-LEVELi-LEVELA.

Can someone clue me in in the Mario MONDO thing? Thanks.

LEELA the highlight of puz. Futurama is a cool, quirky show.

Wonder if Jake yelled I RULE when puz was accepted with no revisions. Har.


orangeblossomspecial 8:34 AM  

Here is Ella Fitzgerald's take on Mr Paganini:

And the Andrews Sisters on Bei Mir Bist Du Schön

oopsydeb 8:34 AM  

The clue for ARE really is so ridiculous. So so so ridiculous. Puzzles with horrible, obscure, complicated cluing for simple words can now be referred to as bist puzzles.

Dreadful puzzle.

xyz 8:41 AM  


No way you loathed this more than I

Agree with the thoughts on the 'theme answers'

but, oh that junkfill!

GILL I. 8:51 AM  

Let me join the ugh group. Every time I turned a corner I'm bombarded with a proper name. You clue NATASHA as a baby Muppet? Why? Give me a chance, at least. Why not Obama's daughter or even the vixen in Bullwinkle. The only one I liked was FELLINI and only because I love "La Dolce Vita."
Yep. TO NAME A few. The only clue I liked was 45D TAYLOR. I used to shop there in my airline days. They are now incredibly outdated in styles. Are they still around?
Boy do I dislike UPRAISE. Sorry, @Loren....some words are just plain ugly and should be outlawed.
I'm going to join @MagsWord on the WTF on "typical Americans." Why, why, why do you clue it like that. What is a typical American? Why do you presume we only like MILD Thai food?
I was a bit fearful that @Rex might find something endearing in this puzzle - so glad he said what I was thinking.
I really don't ever like dissing a puzzle because I know how hard it must be to construct. The idea was interesting but the cluing and some of the answers were just plain awful. You had way too many proper names and yes, I would have sent it back for a clean-up. My dos centavos.

Z 8:53 AM  

@Dr. Haber - IN the key of E, shortened to just IN E. We don’t often see IN A, IN B, IN C, IN D, IN F, or IN G, but they are all plausibly clued by some musical work as needed.

@RooMonster - Italian for “world” would be MONDO. Mario not as in Donkey Kong, but as in stereotypical Italian man’s name.

@mambridge - Sure. Except people are lazy and often use “OVERTIME” when they mean “OVERTIME pay,” as in, “Hey Z, how much OVERTIME did the district pay you when you were putting in those 60 hour weeks as an assistant principal?”

@oopsydeb - I like the term bist clue, but I’m not sure if bist clues are bugs or features. When cluing Oreo or Eno for the 5,623rd time is it better to go easy or find some kernel of trivia from the 14th paragraph of the Wikipedia article. Late week, especially, can be rife with bist clues.

albatross shell 8:54 AM  

The north went in pretty easily for me. The south had many headaches, especially the SE. ADSALE was the biggest pain. A brilliant misdirection because all I could think of were ewers and baseball. MONDO is still a mystery to me even though it fell in pretty quickly from the crosses. Video game or opera or what? It did remind of that sensationalist movie I saw at a drive in around 69 or 70 MONDO Carne that has mostly disappeared from the universe.

While I was solving I mostly agreed with Rex on the theme. Did not get MILDLY and LEAST until the near the end, and TONAMEACOUPLE seemed like such an awkward way to refer to naming twins I had a hard time feeling like it was a common phrase. But it is to my mind. If you name more than 2 examples you say a a few, if you name 2 you say ACOUPLE. All 3 are theme answers are perfectly common.

I did dislike the plethora of names. I did google ACOUPLE of NAMEs to aid in my solve, but was quite happy to get the violinist all on my own.

Had to the O and B to get ORALB even though I use it every day. Product rec. The knockoffs are good too.

Presidential warnings; ORANGe ALARMS

Nancy 8:57 AM  

I never time myself, but it sure felt as though solving this puzzle took twice as long as any Wednesday I've ever done. I thought the theme was brilliant and the theme answers extremely well disguised, but the end result for me was Enormous Suffering, TO PUT IT MILDLY. Why is all this pop culture here to torture me??? I wondered. ERIKA and LEELA ad NATASHA and DRE/ELLIE (or is it DRA/ALLIE?) and LEVEL A (as clued) and ORAL B (as clued) and GTO (also as clued.) TO NAME A COUPLE.

When you have theme material that can't be guessed at, you can't surround it with impenetrable brick walls. I finished this -- don't ask me how -- but I didn't enjoy it, TO SAY THE LEAST. And with different surrounding fill, who knows -- I might have even loved it.

oopsydeb 8:57 AM  

Z, good point on context/day for bist clues. Tho maybe there's just a better way to define bist clue. For me, today's clue for ARE is dreadful on any day of the week.

And yes to others who pointed out that "typical American" cluing is problematic.

Kelly 9:14 AM  

While I agree that this puzzle is little more than a first draft in dire need of editing, I am taken aback by all the complaining over 43A. The crossword world is expected to be able to conjugate the verb "to be" in English, Latin, Italian, Spanish, and French - *to say the least.* Why not German too? That's all there is to 43A. Yes, it's the title of a mega-hit from a time before most of us were born, but it's also a sentence right out of German 101. "To me you are beautiful" or, as stated in the lyrics of the song, "Bei mir bist du schoen means that you're grand."

Seth 9:18 AM  

Loren Lewis Jon: Yes, the theme is tight, but I think Rex's point is that it's THIN, meaning there's not much theme material, meaning the fill should be much better because the theme isn't constraining the grid.

BobL 9:18 AM  

Well, I liked it.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

Obviously, the “5am” wake up was on the wrong side of the bed.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

Worst. Puzzle. Ever.

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

Shouldn’t that be: “are” absolutely contrived?

GILL I. 9:39 AM  

So I went back and re-read our two favorite optimists: @Loren and @Lewis... just to try and understand the love of any "sprachgefuhl" there might be lurking in this puzzle. Changing of a language - especially English - delights me no end. So you have an interesting theme and you ruin it with slop i.e. IMO, HOR, ENS - the clue for ARE, ALGAL and so on and so on? I certainly don't want to sound like a pedant but have you ever panned a puzzle? There have been puzzles published of late by the "gold" standard NYT that deserved to be shelved. This is one of them. No?

Ethan Taliesin 9:43 AM  

Never seen the Mondo Cane movies, Rex? I'm sure you would find them to be quite objectionable.

I didn't care for the puzzle, though I always welcome a Wednesday that's pushing forward rather than looking back to Monday.

Level A hazmat suits require:

Full face Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)
Two-Way radio
Proper footwear including Safety steel-toe boots with shanks on the outside
Chemical-resistant gloves

Yeah, lotta grid crap, lotta inferior fill, but better than last weeks by a mile.

Peter P 9:45 AM  

This is actually the first time I've ever fully agreed with one of Rex's negative reviews.

oisk17 9:48 AM  

Just awful. The clever theme can't justify the awful, overly pop-culture infused fill. Erika, Leela, Natasha, GTO??, Elle (as clued)...

I got lucky, choosing Dre and Ellie over Dr. A and Allie. But cluing "Elle" as "Magazine with an Ask. E. Joan column"?? How many better ways are there to clue "Elle"? At that point the puzzle really went to Elle. How about this clue " Sie, West of the Rhine." Or "What she becomes in Lyon." To name a couple.

Terrible, to put it mildly. Or to say the least.

Suzy 9:50 AM  

@ Kendall— agreed! But the fill ruins it! Immediately thought of “toe” for 62A, but decided surely not almost as quickly.
Never heard of Ellie Kemper or Leela, and don’t feel worse for it.

Tad Bit 9:53 AM  

I liked it because it was part of my morning ritual of doing the NYT while I get my first cup of coffee in me. I would have hated the puzzle if it didn't exist and I would have missed out on my ritual.

But the puzzle's cluing was ridiculous. "Bei mir bist du schoen?" Whatever key a Stevie Wonder song is in? No songs in the history of mankind have cared what key they are in...unless it's from the classical rep...then composers felt the need to say what key they were in. That would be like cluing ESPN's programming as "GAMES..." oh wait...

If you are going to use the phrase, "To name a..." you are usually coming up with examples to prove a point. "A couple" hardly proves a point. In some parts of the country "a couple" might actually mean more than two, sometimes they even say "a couple three," but I challenge anyone who says they say, "to name a couple" more than "to name a few." If you say the former, it's because you couldn't come up with more examples and you intentionally had to say "couple" and at that moment, it ceased to be a catchphrase anymore...

Just agree that the cluing was torturous. Rex is spot on as usual. You might disagree with his strong wording, but that would be your problem.

Z 9:58 AM  

@oopsydeb - So it is only a bist clue when it is inappropriate for the puzzle? De gustibus non est disputandum and all that, but I translated today’s clue into “common three letter word,” so it didn’t rankle me beyond being more of a Friday/Saturday clue than a M-W clue. Lots of people agree with your take, but for me it was just something to figure out and when I tried ARE it worked.

@newer solvers - Free solving advice - One of my big solving breakthroughs was learning not to get stuck on bist clues. The solver doesn’t really need to be an expert on what key every opera, 1920’s jazz hit, or Emo Metal Rap song is in. The solver doesn’t really need to conjugate “to be” in 47 languages (Hi @Kelly). It helps to have heard of FELLINI, but knowing his œuvre is not required. Pattern recognition is more important than knowledge lots of times. Lots of times the extra information actually slows the solver down. The only parts of “‘La Dolce Vita’ director” that were relevant to me were “director” and that the title is in Italian. How many Italian directors do I know with -EL at the beginning? One. Learning to recognize these cluing tropes and focusing on the useful bits is one of the biggest reason I can solve Saturday puzzles regularly now.

Of course, lots of people really enjoy all that extra information. De gustibus non est disputandum. Just remember when a clue is stumping you try to simplify it, translate it to the barest meaning.

jberg 9:59 AM  

I liked the theme, and I’ve certainly heard TO NAME A COUPLE. But I don’t think Benedictines take a vow of silence. Cistercians, sure

Yeah proper names from tv were tough.

burtonkd 10:14 AM  

I knew Rex would lose it on this one and had fun witnessing his "apoplectacy"
INE - oddly knew it right away, but have only seen it for symphonies in xwords, so hesitated. Sure, pop music is in a key also, but more likely to be transposed for singers or instrumental covers.
@kelly, good point about German 101 verb. Played that song at a party last year - apparently still popular with some population segments.

Loren, I feel like you’ve stood me up for a date every day when I come here and you don’t show up. Now you show up without a word, and I’m struggling between being elated you’re back and angry you’ve been gone. Hmm, I think this is how my cats act after a vacation.

It also stereotypes THAI cuisine to assume that it is always hot and spicy.

mathgent 10:14 AM  

TOSAYTHELEAST was worth the price of admission.

A young man was accepted at a very strict monastery. Monks were permitted to say only two words a year. At the end of his first year, the young man met with the abbot to break his silence. "Bed hard," he said and went back to his cell. After his second year, he met with the abbot and said "Food salty." After his third year, he said "I quit." "Well, maybe it's for the best," the abbot said. "Ever since you've been here it's been nothing but bitch, bitch, bitch."§

ArtO 10:18 AM  

@Rex got it right today.

Paul Rippey 10:29 AM  

I disagree with @Loren Muse Smith’s praise for the theme answers, and I take issue with her humblebrag that “Jake’s group was far superior” to the three she suggested. Her examples cracked me up, especially TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE.

Newboy 10:29 AM  

OOOOH that Southeast. For me the last to fall. Rex simply needed more sleep to get the brilliance of this grid and its nefarious clueing as noted by Loren & Lewis at the top of this heap. I stopped reading after their posts and dropped down to second their critiques of the puzzle and OFL’s reaction. Now I’m returning to see how many had obituary for 40D; as a former journalism instructor, I found it a gimme though I marveled at the misdirection.

Ellen S 10:47 AM  

@Loren, thanks for your fun comments, and the link to Kory Stamper’s essay. The struggle between Truth and Fact in language is, I believe, the least of our worries. What about evolution, the moon landing, and Barack Obama’s place of birth? There are no facts, there is only Fox News.

On the other hand, there is EKE OUT. If I’m wrong about the etymology, then I’ll stop mourning the change in meaning, I promise. But when I started puzzling, it meant “supplement”. I don’t know when it changed, somewhere mid-Shortz, I think. What I liked about the older meaning is that it held so much social history in its two little words. People SUPPLEMENTED their income — didn’t the March family do that? I think the failing gentry in Jane Austen’s novels just starved and desperately tried to marry up. I have read, though not memorized, Austen, and have only a sketchy knowledge of Little Women, but diddn’t they “eke out” a living making cut-paper cards? Or was that another book? Or never happened? (Aside: a long time ago, I could trust what I remembered. Not that it was true, but where I had read it, who said it, I could remember that accurately. Not so much any more, so maybe “eke out” never meant “supplement”.). Anyway, what I think these families were supplementing was the income from stocks and bonds. The interest off an old inheritance. After being passed down through a few generations, divided a few times, the income was just enough to starve on. Or at least so I believe. So you have to supplement. Take in lodgers. Do some kind of genteel cottage industry. if “eke out” just means, “barely get by”, it’s not fun any more.

@Rex - thanks for explaining ENS. That is really an appropriate ending to a puzzle that began with ADO.

Hack mechanic 10:52 AM  

I didn't figure it out myself but it's "in the (key of) e"

Whatsername 11:00 AM  

@Lewis - Here you go:
Sworn promise on the witness stand / TOBEHONEST
With some limitations / TOACERTAINEXTENT (16 but it could work)

@MagsWord - Welcome! And I agree re "typical" Americans.

@burtonkd - Exactly how my cats act! But re @Loren, I missed her too.

I didn't hate it as much as some but it definitely did not pass the squint test, meaning I squinted more than I smiled. ALGAL was odd and seems unanimous that it should have been TONAMEAFEW. Could've been so easily fixed by changing the clue from twins to quintuplets or sextuplets . . . to name a couple. 68A was a WTH moment but would have worked nicely without the hyphen. So yes, editing would have been a very good thing here.

ERIKA Christensen is a terrific actress who has, besides the TV series Parenthood, numerous memorable movie roles to her credit. If you like thrillers, she was absolutely diabolical as the creepy stalking girlfriend in Swimfan.

Stormy Daniels 11:02 AM  

I hated it solely because 9D wasn't LUBE.

Carola 11:21 AM  

Tough for me, made me feel stupid and crotchety. I agree with @Rex about A COUPLE; I also thought the second phrase was off, with PUT a very unlikely synonym for "prepare" and IT having no referent. And man, all those names. As we (americanized) Norwegians say, Uff-da!

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

I have to agree with Rex. Someone should undertake to tote up the fur and agin so we can decide later this PM.

OTOH, I have come to accept that fill will be silly, since, in most if not all cases fill is generated by the longs. Now, stupid clues for insipid fill is a crime.

Linda R 11:38 AM  

If 68A had been "nonmajority," wouldn't the Ns have been no more a majority than the Os?

Joseph M 11:55 AM  

This puzzle was not without its charm. Really liked the clues for TO SAY THE LEAST, ALARMS, and TAYLOR.

Love BIST CLUE as a new term for the crossword lexicon. That clue for 43A is trying so hard to distract from how lackluster the answer is. You have to give it an A for effort.

ONENIL makes its second appearance in recent days. Its only saving grace is that it looks almost like the name of an American playwright.

Crimson Devil 11:59 AM  

A full dozen proper names: too much for me.

Joe Dipinto 12:05 PM  

@mathgent -- lol at the monk joke.

This really is as bad as Rex says it is. A reference to two examples is "to name two" in common parlance, which is what the theme is going for -- why start off with a variant that almost no one ever says?

And the Thai chef clue is ridiculous: "putting" food mild or spicy? Come on. (We have the editors to thank there: the constructor says his original clue involved a shampooist. Trying to figure out how that might fit.)

Only the third themer clicks the way that all of them should have. It places the faults of the first two in even higher relief.

The ARE clue is awful. "What 'bist' means in German" would be a reasonable clue -- no need to drag an 80+ year old song title into it. And who identifies a pop song by its key signature? An accompanist about to perform it ad lib with an unfamiliar singer needs that information; no one else cares about it.

There's the weird little Italian thing going on with PAGANINI, FELLINI, MONDO (and LEO, if DaVinci is your bff). I always get EBOLA the virus mixed up with Eboli the princess in Verdi's "Don Carlos".

Final verdict: Yeesh. Here's Aretha with a Stevie Wonder song involving 60d:

Though you don't call anymore
I sit and wait in vain
I guess I'll rap on your door
Tap on your window pane...

RooMonster 12:11 PM  

Ah, thanks. Way outside my ken, that one.

Isn't LE VELA something in some language? Sounds like it.

Five letter word ending in LB? Gotta be ORALB. Are there other common ones?

SOSOON, a Bassoon cousin?

Was that directed by Spike OR ANG Lee?

People who love Mel? OTTERS

Ok, mercy granted. :-)


Anonymous 12:17 PM  

Dear Stormy:

You need a more adept partner.

OffTheGrid 12:33 PM  

@LMS, Are you, perhaps, a "Bad grammar is OK" snob?

old timer 12:39 PM  

The theme was defensible and some of the answers were quite amusing, TO PUT IT MILDLY. The fill was just dreadful, and how revealing it is that the constructor says the editor made no changes. WS does seem to have a sinecure, these days. So like most of you I think OFL's IRE was deserved, but I think @LMS was right to defend the theme.

I *liked* the Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen clue, much as I detested ARE in the fill. It's really Yiddish, isn't it? "By me, you are beautiful." "By me" is an old-time Jewish way of saying, "I think" or "I believe" and I have to believe it is a Yiddishism.

INE is inexcusable. No one refers to the key of pop music tunes, except maybe in rehearsal. Now classical pieces, especially baroque ones, are often referred to that way. There are many Bach suites, etc., where the key is part of the name always used by those who play them, and we who listen to that kind of music never leave off the "in B minor" when referring to Bach's best-known Mass.

jae 12:41 PM  


NatGeo recently aired a mini series about an outbreak of EBOLA in the US in 1989. It’s a true story and definitely worth a look if you don’t mind a small dose of paranoia. LEVEL A suits are heavily featured.

I’m going to take my Mom’s advice on the puzzle.

Lljones 12:52 PM  

Could someone please explain 68A to me? I don't get it.

ari 12:52 PM  

The themers were quite good. I actually liked ONENIL. The rest was horrendous. Also, anyone who thinks crossing PAGANINI with FELLINI (especially on a Wednesday) is fair should look at the rules for submission.

SteveM 12:58 PM  

The puzzle wasn't that bad. I don't read Rex very often because he just takes the fun out of it. There is criticism, there is mean-spirited criticism, and there is Rex. Anyhow, The song was originally titled Bei Mir Bistu Shein and the lyrics were in Yiddish. The Andrews Sisters recorded the song in 1937 as Bei Mir Bist Du Schön, not Schoen. However it was Vic Schoen who discovered and arranged the the song for the Andrews Sisters, and who actually wrote the English lyrics (and German title) that were attributed to Sammy Cahn for marketing purposes.

WhatDoing 1:07 PM  

Hey! No disparaging of the one soccer reference we non-baseballers get! ONENIL is a good answer and one that fans will know.

Teedmn 1:11 PM  

So many people I didn't know from ADAM - okay, I figured out all of them but only A COUPLE (actually a few) went in without needing most of the crosses - gimmes would be OTIS, DIANE and TERI.

I thought "Gone Girl" was a pretty good book (perhaps it helps that I read it on vacation in Costa Rica) but now that it belongs in a niche genre I'm calling "bad girl chick lit", I've rather soured on it. Hey, I like "chick lit", just not the "bad girl" part.

ALARMS had a great clue that I had to think about it, but it might have been fun to cross-reference it to the Thai food themer. I usually go with the middle of the road # of alarms - I like hot food but I also like to taste everything.

I should have known ERIKA without crosses; she was in one of my favorite movies (which isn't listed in the Wiki excerpt), The Upside of Anger. No one else seems to have watched that movie but I've seen it probably four times. Anybody else?

Joe Dipinto 1:12 PM  

@old timer -- It was a popular Yiddish theater song originally, published as "Bei Mir Bistu Shein". The spelling was Germanized for the Andrews Sisters version. I have the BG recording from the 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. Good stuff.

Masked and Anonymous 1:17 PM  

"NW Garbage" fave: ASLOPE. Has been used a whole buncha times in other NYTPuzs. And has Patrick Berry Usage Immunity. Clearly, the Rodney Dangerfield of this here WedPuz.

Cute little theme. Very tight and very funny. All themers are 13-long, just for good luck. Only other viable exclusively-end-of-sentence-enhancing TO-themer M&A could think of offhand was TO BOOT, which is kinda runty, by comparison.

Primo weeject stacks in the NW & SE. staff weeject pick: HOR. Santa's fave version of "har".

fave fillin: LEVELA. Better clue would give a nod to James "Mondo" Levela, famed crusader for the straightenin of all pictures hung on public walls.
Honrable mention to: U-PRAISE, somethin M&A crusades for, occasionally.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Halperin.

Masked & Anonymo3Us

differenter than snot:

DrBB 1:23 PM  

Geez, and you didn't even mention the 31A/32D cross, which for me ended the puzzle on a total proper name Natick. ELLIE was pretty likely but DRE is a name? Who knew? People who watch Black-ish I guess.

DrBB 1:27 PM  

@Lijones: the majority of letters in "non" are ens. FWIW, I thought it was the one witty clue in the whole thing.

Lewis 1:40 PM  

@whatsername -- Those are terrific answers, but they wouldn't have fit this set, in which each answer has four words, of which the second is a "communication" verb.

Joe Dipinto 1:41 PM  

@DrBB -- Dre as a name is usually short for Andre. Rapper Dr. DRE has been in the puzzle on numerous occasions -- nice to get a different clue. (And I like "Black-ish".)

SteveM 2:06 PM  

About INE, I'm always annoyed at clues that demand knowledge of keys of musical pieces, and they are always, always classical pieces of which the key is usually part of the title. But I never, ever know the key no matter how familiar I am with the piece since I'm not a musician. This was the first time I've ever encountered a crossword answer that is the key for a popular piece, and it made me laugh. I think the constructor used this as a joke to comment on the absurdity of the whole key thing as a subject for crosswords.

Z 2:09 PM  

@OffTheGrid - I don't know about @LMS, but I think the whole notion of "bad" and "good" grammar is wrong. "Grammar" describes the rules of language to convey meaning. What is described as "bad grammar" is really just "different grammar," a different set of rules that are just as valid, and just as arbitrary, as "good grammar." If I'm writing for an educated audience I am going to use "to whom" and not "to who." If I'm teaching a HS writing class I'm going to make sure that the students understand the difference between subject and object in a sentence and why, if they writing a paper for a professor they will want to know how "who" and "whom" are different. But I'm not going to lose any sleep over anyone using "who" as an object in conversation or in a comments section of a blog. If that makes me a snob, so be it.

Anonymous 2:16 PM  

Rex explained it. Read him.

Batter Up 2:19 PM  

This shows why we're baseball fans. A ONE NIL game at least has a pitching duel. But one goal in a soccer game? Ho Hum Yawn.

deerfencer 2:24 PM  

Ugh, worst Wednesday ever. As my wife said, Shortz must be on vacation--or at least his mind is ala Mose Allison. Pass the barf bag--this is the closest a puzzle has got me to hurling.

Unknown 2:45 PM  


Anonymous 3:00 PM  

I think clue 19A, "Mario's world," should have appended a question mark if it was about the Italian word for "world." Taken literally, I thought of the video game character (i.e. Super Mario World), but of course Mushroom Kingdom was far too long, and nothing else remotely similar worked. Subcon, Rogueport, Nintendo, NES, SNES... nope! Incidentally, Mondo is the name of a *level* in Super Mario World, which makes the clue that much more cringey without a question mark.

That was my pet peeve with this puzzle, so I'll leave it at that.

Anonymous 3:06 PM  

But I'm not going to lose any sleep over anyone using "who" as an object in conversation or in a comments section of a blog. If that makes me a snob, so be it.

That doesn't make you a snob, it makes you a member of the Trumpian 'poorly educated' class. He loves 'em. Do you too?? :):)

So far as grammar, per se, is concerned American English is about the only one that is grammar-less in the sense that there is no Academy steering the ship. The Merriam-Webster does something for vocab, but there's no arbiter of grammar. Even the lowly Russians have one. The main reason Americans can't learn other languages, and won't learn other languages, is each expects to be allowed to make it up as they go along, just like their native tongue. A higgledy-piggledy mouth makes a higgeldy-piggledy brain.

What? 4:26 PM  

Not weird, just a bit of Yiddish (German) and a famous old song from the 1930s. Translated - by me you are beautiful

ChE Dave 5:14 PM  

Agreed, fill was forced. Full of cultural trivia. I don’t know any recent Muppet additions but was able to confirm Mondo with my teenage son.

albatross shell 5:33 PM  

There does seem to a lot of trumpitus going around. In the last COUPLE months we have had the worst ever you name the day puzzle or worst clue ever. Not nearly as many of best ever but a couple. You'd think they might be a bit rarer.

Z 6:02 PM  

@anon3:06 - LOL. Too funny. Maybe do a little basic research before saying something. French is another great example. All those blue links in the first paragraph are to variations of French, many of the variations spoken in France, but also discussing variations from Lebanon to Louisiana. Glad to see the Académie française is standing watch. In short, "The Immortals" can issue all the language decrees they want but in the end it is sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Anonymous 7:10 PM  


The point, of course, is that French, for example, does have a defined set of rules. That some Frenchfolk choose to ignore it is one thing. Here in the USofA, it's just anarchy. If more teachers enforced who/whom, perhaps we wouldn't have so many 'poorly educated' voters whom vote against their own interest. :)

Loren Muse Smith 7:38 PM  

Yo, @Z- I’ll send some coin your way for the Purina Troll Food. You’re wasting your time. Entertaining, though. The ignorance takes my breath away.

BarbieBarbie 8:10 PM  

To tell the truth, I didn’t care for this puzzle. Seemed like two themers that went together plus one awkward didn’t-quite-work phrase. And a BUNCH of Kleindrecken. So I guess it’s not a surprise that today’s comment section is not really about the puzzle, unless you count the tendency to beat a dead horse. On the happy side, to state the obvious: next up is Thursday!

Runs with Scissors 9:29 PM  

I actually liked this puzzle. I don't tend to overthink the solve; the solve process is enjoyable in and of itself.

Has anyone in the US seen an OPEL in the wild recently? I haven't.

FELLINI starts my inner 7th grader.

ALARMS all over today in re the puzzle, TO SAY THE LEAST.

@Anon 3:06

Americans do learn other languages. But the never-asked question is "which one should we learn?" Because, you know, the rest of the world speaks one other language than English.

No language can be considered useful or effective if it needs two different words each (and conjugations) for "to be" and "to know." And why would any language need more than one word for "the?"

Latin and its bastard daughters aren't really all that.

Mark, in Mickey's North 40

Monty Boy 10:46 PM  

I liked this on a lot, although I had a familiar solving experience. I started looking for gimmes in all the crosses, then downs. I had maybe six entries. Then the process of filling around a few of those and getting one corner, then another, etc.

One of my wheelhouse answers was LEVELA. Long ago, I worked on hazardous waste sites doing the field characterization. @Ethan 9:43 has a Level A description, but ours included chemical resistant coveralls with hood and hard hat. Gloves were duct taped to the overalls as were the chem resistant boots. Worst site was in Cincinnati in August. Heat was brutal. Then with all that, we had to still do the technical work taking samples, recording drilling logs, etc. Since the results of many of the samples may be used in court, we also had to maintaining chain of custody as the forensics have to.

For those who may wonder, there is also Level B (essentially the same as Level A, but with filter respirators), Level C (no supplied air or filtered masks). Level D is standard OSHA safety gear for off site work.

Anonymous 11:21 PM  

And y'all thought language and math were polar opposite!! Hah.
“The results do suggest that learning to read in a particular way – or more generally, the cultural differences associated with different language groups – may have an impact in other cognitive domains, in this case arithmetic processing,” comments neuroscientist Barry Horwitz of the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Maryland, US.


IOW, muddy language, muddy math. Hah!!!

Jonathan Tomer 12:36 AM  

Mario is an Italian name, MONDO is Italian for "world."

Jonathan Tomer 12:46 AM  

Glad I'm not alone in LOATHing this one. INE? Are you friggin kidding me?

And no, HOR is not an "Abbr." for horizontal. A prefix does not an abbreviation make. Likewise ORANG isn't an "informal" way to say orangutan, except in that abruptly ending one's speech in the middle of a word would certainly be informal, downright rude even.

I actually liked ALGAL, but maybe only because I guessed it right away.

@RWS: I don't believe OPELS are sold in the US, but they're popular the rest of the world over.

Seth Bourque 1:49 AM  

I’m a musician and I had no clue that INE was In E. I had to come back here to check cause I had no clue wtf Ine meant in this context.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

Rex's nasty, mean spirited rant paired with all these condoning responses is like watching Trump spew hatred to the delight of his base. It's our sad new normal. Decency anyone?

Nancy 6:15 PM  

And I thought it was just me! It was a bear of a puzzle!

a.corn 1:32 AM  

Thank you Rex. Hated this puzzle. 53D was the only fun I had.

Blue Stater 3:38 PM  

I'm kinda late to the party here, but OFL said it all. This one is a stinkerissimo, the worst Wednesday I can recall. I know I say that a lot -- but I wish I didn't have such frequent occasion so to do.

spacecraft 11:34 AM  

*sigh* I have to agree with OFC on this one--except for the dis on Stevie. Not even my true love DOD TERI Garr can save this baby. Double-bogey.

Burma Shave 12:50 PM  


ADAM was HAUT to play some GONEGIRL GAMES,


Diana, LIW 2:32 PM  

DRE/ELLIE got me. I must enter the 21st century. so...dnf

Diana, LIW for Crosswords

rondo 3:05 PM  

TOSAYTHELEAST, I don’t know. Took a while to suss the themers.

LEVEL-A and ORAL-B. Where’s HI-C? And THREE-D? etc. E-BOLA and IN E made it.

DIANE, ERIKA, LEELA, TAYLOR, ELLE, ELLIE, EMMY(lou), TERI, and NATASHA, yeah babies all, meet BEN, LEO, OTIS, FELLINI, ‘DRE, ADAM, and PAGANINI. See if you all can fit into that GTO, or ACOUPLE of OPELS. Nice RIDES.

I had no write-overs, so there’s that.

leftcoast 3:09 PM  

I don't LOATHE this puzzle, but I don't particularly like it, either. It's a combination of the obscure, the unknown, the oddly clued and, frankly, the dull. Yet, with some patient plodding, stayed with it and got it anyway.

Theme is pretty good and would have been better if there were more to it. MASTHEAD and its clue is the best of the longer down. Liked the FELLINI/PAGANINI combo.

OASIS as the site of Las Vegas is laughable. (Had basin, as in desert basin, first.) LEVEL A was good to learn, I guess. LEELA, NATASHA, and ERIKA were unknowns.

SE stack of TOE, HOR, and ENS aren't much, and neither are the stacked ADO, BEN, and IN E in the usually challenging NW.

Scattered PPP's added to their own annoyance factor.

Looking forward to tomorrow.

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